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My Greg Chappell Hat

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“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”

Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*

On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, everyone, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*

I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*

Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Eagles

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Volleys, Blundstones and Thongs: Life in the Shoe-Wearing States

blunnies

They’re beyond dreadful. Flat and offering less support than Chad Morgan opening for Metallica. The Dunlop Volley is a cultural icon, but podiatric nightmare, and I often wonder how Ken Rosewell wore them and still won all those tennis matches?

But spotting them about, they’re like the rarely seen old mate banging on your door with a six pack of Coopers. House painters love them. The herringbone tread must be superb if your day involves leaping up and down ladders, and cutting in around annoyingly ornate ceiling features.

I wore them at uni. A fine library shoe, they also performed exquisitely in the bar, especially on Friday nights when fifty cent schooners were on. The Volley was exceedingly valuable for sitting in the uni quadrangle as the morning sun streamed onto our youthful dials. About three times a semester and with eyes stricken with terror, my friend David would shriek, “Essay? What essay? Due at four today?”

They were also great as we plodded off to fourth year English, cruelly scheduled on Mondays from 4 – 8pm. At 8.01pm I’d point my HQ Holden southward, and with my old friend Jonesy co-piloting, navigate speedily if not unlawfully to the Botanic Hotel where we’d review the lecture’s major themes, or not.

But I couldn’t wear Volleys for sport. On the cricket oval I was a Puma Barbados man, and everything else apart from footy was handled by my Adidas Romes.

To my curious comfort I later met someone who actually wore them on the sporting field. For three seasons Peter and I played cricket together at Wudinna. A handy bat, and lively fieldsman, he was an accomplished first slip and stealthy patroller of the covers. One Saturday he arrived in a new pair, and I asked

“New Volleys? Where did ya get ‘em?”

“Town.” Adelaide was rarely called Adelaide.

“How much?”

“Fifteen bucks.”

I was surprised. “That’s a really good price.”

“They did me a deal. Because I bought six pairs.”

“Really? Why did ya get six pairs?”

“I reckon that should see me through to the end of my career.”

And I’m sure it did. Over the decades I’d imagine Peter in his shed, pulling down a box of new but peculiarly aged Volleys, brushing aside any resident Daddy Long Legs spiders, and with impish delight, sliding on the Dunlops for spring’s first cricket training.

But six pairs! What a visionary. Succession planning of the utmost order. Cricket Australia: phone this fella now.

I had mine on last Friday when the boys and I were at the park kicking their new Sherrin. They (the shoes, not the boys) are still terrible for this. However, as I later sizzled some sausages on the park’s free barbeque they became magnificent. My tong work was sublime, and I’ve rarely squirted sauce with such crisp authority. I thank my Volleys. They were always more Dean Martin than Dusty Martin.

*

They’d doubled in price. This was much better than anticipated, but I did purchase my first pair of Blundstones from a rural supplies store in Kimba during 1993 for fifty bucks. Since then we’ve moved nine times across three countries, and they’re still travelling superbly, and remain as utilitarian as Mark Ricciuto, but with a mellifluous special comments voice.

A new job meant I had to buy some new footwear so I jumped on the tram to revitalised Adelaide menswear retailer, Trims. Where previously I had no choice there are now multiple styles of Blundstones, catering from bushie to micro-brewing hipster. It was like buying a newspaper in London. You glance at the dozen or so front pages. The Times. The Daily Express. The Independent. And then, having scanned the alternatives, you buy the one you always get.

On the tram home I thought about my new boots and me. What might the next twenty-two years bring?

*

I know it’s feeble, but sometimes you just surrender. To make life easier. In Singapore, and surrounded by Americans, Canadians and Brits I started calling them flip-flops. It was just simpler. And now back home among the throng, and with spring making a few tentative squeaks, I’m reclaiming the word thong.

In various equatorial bars I’d try to explain for my global friends. But never with much success. “So it’s wrong to buy your mum a thong, but perfectly acceptable (if a little cheap) to buy her a pair of thongs.”

*

Late Saturday evening my wife’s Grandpop passed away. He was ninety. Not knowing either of my grandfathers contributed to him becoming a significant figure. For most of the twenty years I knew him he and grandma lived in Gympie on the highest hill in town.

We’d sit on their front veranda in the thick air, noisy with eccentric tropical bugs and their assorted clickings and whirrings. Geckos would scamper up and down the walls, while I’d gaze down across the houses on stilts and valleys so different from my dusty home town thousands of kilometres to the empty south.

With the exception of our wedding I only ever saw Grandpop’s gnarly hooves in slippers. Or barefoot.

A magazine columnist once described the non-Queensland parts of our nation as being, “the shoe-wearing states.” Grandpop reinforced this. His slippers were comfortable, but he also went shoeless partly because he didn’t care what those, “bloody wombats” thought. He’d always pronounce wombats with a deliberately long vowel and make it woombats. In the extended family it’s a term of fun and gentle mocking. Mostly.

And now he’s gone. He lived long, but it’s still sad.

*

The boys and I will continue to be bedazzled by Patrick Dangerfield’s seemingly irradiated footy boots. Before the season’s first lawn-mowing I’ll buy a pair of thongs, some double-pluggers. For extra comfort and backyard safety.

Like a feisty yearling my new Blundstones will finally be broken in, and the Volleys, as always, will push me on into that bright, windy spring.

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Cricket and the Country Member 

tarlee 2

Footy’s finished and I’m thinking about cricket. I love cricket stories.

I remember Fonz, from Kimba, telling me how his country carnival team was dismissed in Adelaide for two. Yes, the entire side.

Two.

I also recall Woodsy and Whitey in a grand final at Greenock. As the shadows spread, Kapunda needed a dozen with five wickets in hand. Rolled by four runs.

And, I think of Tarlee.

A farming settlement between the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Its oval is microscopic, utopian for batting, but a bowling Hades. Along one side wanders the Gilbert River, while just beyond, lies the rail line.

Saturday. Distant decades back, my first footy coach, Bruce Dermody, bashed the ball long, very long, and in a rare but happy junction between work and play, it plummeted into a moving train carriage. Bruce was a Station Master!

*

During the ’92 World Cup I remember Dean Jones hitting a six at Adelaide Oval against Sri Lanka. Not square at the Victor Richardson Gates or into the George Giffen Stand, but straight, towards the petty enclave of North Adelaide. The shot rose and journeyed past the seats and the path, and onto the grassy mound.

It landed among the folk under the Moreton Bay Figs. As Geoffrey Boycott might have said, “I don’t go that far for me holiday.”

*

Davo. We all need a mate called Davo. Tarlee had a fella called Jason. Davo was a sportsman; as a dashing centreman he’d won an underage association B & F. Where footy’s forgiving, the glaring nature of cricket can be cruel. He drops Jason on four. Simple catch.

Jason then bludgeons the ball repeatedly into the reeds along the Gilbert River. It drowns, often. He almost gets a triple century. But Davo responds by taking a hat-trick with his Thommo slingers. That’s a diverse afternoon. Like marrying a gorgeous girl. And then at your reception, she whispers, “ I’m pregnant. To your uncle.”

Stumps are drawn. Hours later, ghosts in cream dinner suits are haunting the streets, and pubs. No, look closer, these are not suits, but cricket attire! The same disembodied phantoms are then lured to the Tarlee Institute disco (cheaper drinks, but poorer skin care routines than the Ponds Institute).

The DJ is a farmer. The band is called Undercover. Of course, they include “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. Their cricket whites survive the prickly outfield and muddy river, but the floorboarded infield of bundy and beer-slop is lethal; it has a Strontium-90 half-life.

*

Simon O’Donnell at the SCG in 1986. Flat-bats one into the top of the Brewongle Stand. Like Mooloolaba and Coonawarra, Brewongle is a comfortingly Australian word, murmuring of open roads, and backyards, and drifting eucalyptus. Now sirens to my equatorial ears, these are calling me home.

Brewongle, as is mostly thought, is not named after an Aboriginal term for camping ground, but rather for the former tea room run by two sisters within the old stand. Ah, myth and reality.

One Australian summer we’ll take our boys to Sydney. The Brewongle beckons.

*

Fifteen, brazen, bearded. Precocious in myriad ways. My teenage cousin Puggy played representative cricket with fellow Barossans Greg Blewett and Darren Lehmann. After mobs of runs against men, he made his A grade debut.

Nuriootpa’s opening bowler Horry Moore was broad, fierce, and scary-quick. A walloper from Nuriootpa, he’d sort this punk out. In competition, youthful self-confidence is always insulting. His red torrent began.

Crack! Puggy drove Horry’s third lightning bolt straight back over his head. Two bounces, under the fence, onto the road, with gravel scuffing the ripe Kookaburra. Who was this kid? He got 94 in slick time.

At season’s end he’d win the association batting aggregate. Puggy’s drive was a haughty declaration, an unworldly rebellion, and bluntly instructive of life being a string of little births and, for Horry that innings, little deaths.

*

Eudunda. As you drive across the last hill before descending into town, a bluish plain swims into view. This flat scrubbyness seems, on certain days, as a wintry ocean. As a kid I used to think, instead of this saltbush and mallee, it’d be wonderful if it was the sea. As it was, eons ago.

To the north, and by Burra Creek, is the unironic locality of World’s End. Snaking nearby we find Goyder’s Line, which shows where rain and soil might allow crops to be grown confidently. Goyder is still right.

A sleety, snowy gale there once forced footballers to scurry under the fence and huddle between the Kingswoods and Chargers. I was ten, and hadn’t seen such apocalyptic storms. World’s End seemed even closer.

Kapunda’s Bull Ant got some brisk runs one January at Eudunda (former club of mine Footy Almanac host, John Harms). He was a stylish left-hander, but, then again, ignoring Kepler Vessels, aren’t they all? Clipping one off his pads, it hurled high over the boundary, and clanged about on the clubroom roof like Glaswegian hail. It sat there.

In protest at the heat, ruthless flogging and distasteful realisation they were supposedly enduring this for fun, the locals all flopped on the grass. No-one moved to retrieve the ball. Mutiny. Finally, the bowler mumbled, “Well, I served up the poop, I better go fetch it.”

And he did.

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Frogger, Bush Biscuits and Staring at Parked Motorbikes

fish tales

Growing up in the country wasn’t simply footy, cricket and an occasional hit of tennis.

Frogger

A gastronomic and social revolution followed Johnny Guzzo opening The Kapunda Pizza Bar in the late 1970’s. Located on the Main Street, it was a superior example of the wider world invading. Goodbye chops and three veg!

This meant Rawady’s Deli no longer sold the town’s most exotic food: the Chiko Roll. Of course, neighbouring Nuriootpa had a so-called, “Chinese Restaurant,” but the Barossa Valley was always a brazen place.

The KPB immediately became a teenage hangout. Within its fuggy walls were a jukebox, pinball machine and cabinet game. Trigonometry and flora transects would not win me. Enter Frogger!

Our heroic frog needed to cross a road, and then a river teeming with turtles and alligators. Superior to Space Invaders and Galaxian; both were earnest and dull next to Frogger’s narrative silliness. Beyond the usual disposable deaths, it rewarded the escorting of a lady frog.

And the cultural legacy! In 1998, the game starred in the Seinfeld episode, “The Frogger,” involving George’s world record score of 860,630 points. While, “Space Invaders” by Player One featured on the 1979 K-Tel compilation Full Boar. Side 2 holds up well

Split Enz- I Got You

Flying Lizards- Money

Sniff ‘n’ the Tears- Driver’s Seat

The Sports- Strangers On A Train

Cheap Trick- Dream Police

Ry Cooder- Little Sister

The Aliens- Confrontation

Jo Jo Zep & Falcons- Shape I’m In

Graham Parker- Hey Lord Don’t Ask Me Questions

Jimmy & The Boys- I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Roller-skating

“Lay Your Love on Me” by Racey was popular when I started high school, and ceaselessly requested on 5AD’s evening show.

Roller-skating on the betting ring at Kapunda’s Trotting Track. In a wheeled version of musical chairs I won Racey’s follow-up single, “Some Girls.“ It wasn’t even in the shops!

Collecting the record from DJ and Tarlee farmer Tony Clarke, it was a dazzling jewel in a Tintin adventure. A giggle of girls gathered around me to behold it. For about five seconds I was John Paul Young.

“You’re so lucky!”

“That is so cool.”

“Can you even wait to play it on the Pye 3-in-1?”

The chorus was ruthlessly relevant

Some girls will, some girls won’t
Some girls need a lot of lovin’ and some girls don’t
Well, I know I’ve got the fever but I don’t know why
Some say they will and some girls lie

I was sure it’d make me outrageously popular with that most desirable of creatures, the older Year 9 girl.

It did not.

Extra ball! Multiball! Special!

The highest weekly pinball score at Johnny Guzzo’s won a can of coke. I know! It was usually collected by a yoof wearing a black duffel coat, and the black boots with a fearsome reputation among mothers everywhere, Ripples. Although some dressed tough, Kapunda boys weren’t.

When not applying plantations of pineapple to pizza (jalapeno and salami were yet to be invented) Johnny Guzzo would play pinball. He was fun, but kicked out anybody who tilted the machine too violently. Exiled onto the Main Street, Johnny’d be yelling after them, “Vaffanculo! Si cazzo rompi. Esci!”

Bang! A Special! A free game! The whip-crack always turned the adolescent heads away from their smoking and bantering, to see who’d won.

It is a Believe It Or Not mystery that I claimed the coke. Once.

I often think that when my mid-life crisis finally hits, I’ll buy a pinball machine. May be Fish Tales.

Bombing the Canteen

Every summer, every boy tried to splash Mrs Chappell, the Kapunda Swimming Pool’s manageress, as she sat in her canteen chair. Mrs Chappell sold confectionery, shelved seductively in glass bottles. These were probably taken from a Fowler’s Vacola preserving set.

Launched stealthily from the diving board, drenching the canteen could only be achieved with an impeccably executed bomb or cannonball such as a Storky, Arsey, Suey, or my cousin Boogly’s speciality, the Coffin.

Being built like a full back didn’t result automatically in a bigger splash. The best bombs had slick skill and my friend Lukey, still Robbie Flower skinny, possessed Grand Master technique.

Eating at the pool was ritualistic. Bush Biscuits were similar to Arrowroots, but larger, harder, and somewhat impossibly, more dreary and tasteless. According to the manufacturer, they were, “made for camping.” Forget blood brothers, Bush Biscuit bonds run deepest.

They became our currency. Decades on, and always over beers, fellow pool-haunter Fats and I still jest about the Bush Biscuit ledger.

“You still owe me a Zooper Dooper from 1983.”

“What about the time I bought Boogly, Lukey and you Sunnyboys?”

“I remember the day you pinched my Wizz Fizz, you know, when I got kicked out for bombing Mrs Chappell in the canteen!”

For the record, Fats remains indebted to me.

Staring at Parked Motorbikes

I never loved the motorbike. Several of my schoolmates did. Upon arriving, during recess, at lunch, and after school, they’d gather under the tree where the teachers’ motorbikes were parked.

Like a hypnotised cult they’d stare at the machines as if in a David Lynch film. Or Puberty Blues.

Through barely-opened mouths, they’d mutter about carbies and clutches. They had nicknames like Gomer and Lumpy.

“How’s the throttle action?”

“What do you think’s the top end?”

“I reckon Mr H polished his petrol tank last night.”

When every working part had been mentioned, they’d cycle through them again. Never making eye contact, but staring, bewitched, at the motorbikes.

After school, they’d then break camp to Johnny Guzzo’s and, on the footpath, repeat their low automotive mantra, while gazing at a different set of Kawasaki’s.

Working at a Catholic school in Hertfordshire I was reminded of Gomer and his Suzuki pornologists. A friend, the Religious Instruction teacher, once had the following priestly exchange

“So boys, it is a sin to masturbate, because, in the eyes of God, in so doing, you are thinking about sex with a woman.”

A hand crept up. “But sir,” an anxious boy asked, “is it still a sin if you’re thinking about your favourite car?”

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Gambling is illegal at Bushwood sir, and I never slice: five yarns

 

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Noonan! D’Annunzio! Mitchell! You’re on the tee!

It was a sparkling, jaunty morning. The kind only had during university holidays. Thirty chaps in whispering knots, around the first tee of North Adelaide’s south course.

As casual golfers we’d no experience with a gallery. Rocket, Puggy and I watched Crackshot have a few swings. He’d get us underway.

Exhibiting an opening batsman’s concentration, his backswing was neat. A purposeful downswing. Sixty eyes followed it as it flew up and through the autumnal sky. Remaining patiently on the tee, however, was his Hot Dot.

Now like a crashing Black Hawk’s rotor, minus the Jesus nut, Crackshot’s driver was in whirling flight. Sounding like Rolf’s wobble board it propelled up the fairway, then skimmed across the Kikuyu before finally, as in a Samuel Beckett tableau, it lay motionless and forsaken.

“My palms were sweaty,” claimed Crackshot.

I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber.

Sadly demolished, Kapunda’s Railway Hotel experienced a fleeting infamy, among the ridiculous, by opening at 8am on Sundays, when, in situ, we’d get raspberry cordial splashed in our West End Draught butchers.

Angelin was the publicans’ son. In the hotel ballroom he played me Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Once. I recuperated. Everything about the Railway Hotel was ridiculous.

But Angelin could play footy. He was a thumping kick, and when he connected, he sometimes achieved the mythological quality known in country sport as “good purchase.”

In the Junior Colts one Saturday at Dutton Park our ruckman, Rocket, got the tap from the centre bounce. Angelin seized the footy in that clean, untouchable way he had. Suddenly frozen as if in a sci-fi telemovie, the Tanunda boys were incapable of tackling him.

He surged towards the half forward line. Fifty-metre arcs were un-invented, but he was beyond that when he bombed it. Perhaps prog-rock had already pinched his conceptual clarity. It was a behind. To the Tanunda Magpies.

He’d kicked it the wrong way.

But, gee, it was impressive.

Hey Moose! Rocko! Help my buddy here find his wallet! 

The history of Spoof suggests English public schoolboys, darkened cupboards and loosened trousers. But for me it’s afternoons in Kapunda’s Prince of Wales, or Puffa’s, as it’s widely known.

Called ‘the ancient art of mathematical calculation as played by gentlemen,’ Spoof is a drinking game fabricated upon failure. It is a drinking game of cheerful cruelty, for it identifies no winners, only the loser.

Whitey loved Spoofy, and grabbing three coins, he’d jangle them at you with the same cacoëthes as the cat that was bitten by The Gambling Bug in the cartoon, Early to Bet. Whitey always found takers. Laughing, drinking, spoofing. In concert.

One afternoon Whitey lost. Many, many times. It remains a pub highlight even among the punters who weren’t there.

How can it have been so long since I played Spoofy?

Now I know why tigers eat their young.

It was a noble idea. Improve standards by running an evening clinic with Test umpire Tony Crafter. So we congregated in the Marlboro Red fug of the Kapunda clubrooms. Our guest officiated across the planet, but tonight, would field some exotic questions.

Angaston Muppet: Tony? May I call you Tony?

Tony Crafter: You may.

AM: Saturday in the A3’s I bowled a bouncer. And the batsman stuck up his hand and caught it. What do you think?

TC: If he had time to let go of the bat, raise a hand above his head and then catch it, it must have been a bloody slow bouncer.

AM: Well, yeah. But what should happen?

TC: You should give up bowling.

AM took charge massively. He changed topic.

AM: Once in the A3’s I appealed for a LBW.

TC: How did you go?

AM: Robbed! The umpire said he couldn’t make a decision. He reckoned I’d run down the pitch and blocked his view.

TC: Fair enough. That’s a reasonable response.

AM: OK, the umpire can’t make a LBW decision! Could I then appeal to the square leg umpire?

The Angaston Muppet, I’m assured, is currently a senior advisor within the federal government.

Be the ball, Danny.

Milan Faletic was a good average footballer. Turning out for West Torrens and Port Adelaide in over two hundred games, his nickname had pubescent, but lasting appeal. They called him Spoof.

At Port with Spoof was Rod Burton who became senior coach of the Kapunda Bombers when I was a boy. He was menacing. He had mad eyes. Replace shark with Burton and Quint’s still right

Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’

Crackshot, Rocket and I were on the wing by the timekeepers’ box when Burton had a boundary kick in. The box also housed the PA, and during the B Grade club stalwart Bruce Dermody pontificated

Ladies and gentleman. The canteen is selling pies, pasties and sausage rolls. Lollies for the kids. And the liquor bar will open at 2.30 for all your refreshment needs.

We were behind Burton. Deliberately, he pushed off the fence, and launched a mountainous screw punt. Spiralling instantly above the gum trees, the Ross Faulkner footy bisected the posts, and below the mound, down near the weedy trotting track, on the service road, it landed.

Blighty’s goal was but a stab pass.

As the Holden VC Commodores honked in praise, and duffel-coated kids hollered, Burton smiled. Just briefly.

 

 

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Six sixes

BB

Nuriootpa High School 1981- Jock McGregor 

Saturday morning, underage cricket. Barossa Valley. Fruit-heavy vines enclose the ground, vintage approaches. Teenage conversations.

“Do you think REO Speedwagon are better than Adam and the Ants?”

“Pass me that Blankety Blanks lemonade.”

“EH Holdens beat XP Fords? Get real!”

Most of us were boys. But Jock was a fully formed man. His batting power was laughably brutal, and as a mate’s dad used to say, “He had an eye like a stinkin’ fish.”

Back then, footy goal posts were permanent fixtures. We watched as Jock punished the looping ball. We watched, slack-jawed. It sped straight through the goals at three-quarter-post height. Six runs and six points! We kept watching. Zooming above the gnarled rows of Shiraz vines, the ball was still climbing. 

Gabba 2005- Brett Lee 

Weet-bix devourer, and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos devotee, Brett Lee was a better batsman than guitarist. He belted West Indian Daren Powell’s delivery above and beyond the Northern Stand, and with near tragicomedy. It exploded on impact close to another blonde Australian paceman. And his wife and young daughter.

“I felt like the mayor of Hiroshima. Six inches either way and the ball would have caused some real damage,” a relieved Carl Rackemann said of the bombardment.

Kapunda High School 1979 until 1983- Paul McCarthy

In my youth of Skyhooks and sausage rolls, there were teachers versus students matches. We loved them. These were played in wholesome spirit, although, as ridiculous, rash lads, some competed like fuming dogs.

Once in the footy my friend Crackshot perfectly tackled a staff member, trapping the Lyrebird to him. The teacher finally loosened an arm, and to his eternal shuddering horror, and our eternal amusement, promptly jabbed Crackshot on the chin. Did we just see that? I don’t think he bit off part of his ear though.

In every cricket match history teacher, and champion golfer, Paul McCarthy provided the highpoint. Batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would arrive, and he’d flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of her white-washed cottage. Thud. A depth charge in a submarine movie. Everyone waited for it. Macca always delivered.

WACA 2006- Adam Gilchrist

We were at Adelaide’s Highway Inn for Gilly’s pyrotechnics.

It had been among the last workingman’s pubs. On Fridays a misshapen gent haunted the front bar, peddling greasy handfuls of cubed cheese and sliced mettwurst. As such I suspect it was often a real gastro pub. It sold butcher glasses (200ml) of port, but no craft ales. Around six they’d pay a woman to dance through the smoky fug, to wrong music. She would forget to wear her shirt.

Then the Highway was gentrified. The cheese and metty man was gone. Now you could buy

Spring garden riccioli (v) $22 w Brussels sprouts, radicchio, peas and rye crumbs.

Gilchrist launched four sixes in that Ashes knock. Was it so few? Bludgeoning 24 off a Monty over, each shot crackled with sharp raucousness. Aural affects often characterise sport. Gilly sounded like he was right in your lounge room, cracking a whip.

During that beer garden afternoon, I’m sure there was a distant whiff of crumbly cheddar and Linke’s mettwurst

Wudinna 1990- Gary Fitzgerald 

When bowling, my approach to the wicket was utterly unlike Michael Holding. Less whispering death, more three-legged race. Kyancutta’s batsmen could hit it hard, but Fitzy could hit it hardest. He went after me one February afternoon.

Instantly, the ball was one hundred feet high. With the perpetual hopefulness of all bowlers, I thought he’d skied it. Catch, I thought. In a split second I knew. I was wrong.

Fitzy clubbed it like an Adam Scott 9 iron, but unbearably long. It somehow evaded the Commodores cowering in the shade of the distant gym. That Kookaburra travelled further than Yorkshire men go on holiday.

After bouncing ferociously on the rubble the ball returned, but needing cranio-facial surgery. Every batsman tries to smack me. With the last delivery of the innings, I take my seventh wicket. For 74! And win a slab of Southwark! We lose.

WACA 1997- Mark Waugh 

“Along with golf, it’s probably my favourite pastime and cricket gets in the way a bit,” Mark Waugh once said. Our most elegant punter is not Punter, but Junior.

His celebrated strike, off Daniel Vittori, is uncomplicated grace. There is no hyperbole: no running, no leaping, and no punching the air (or Joe Root’s chin). Plainly, the younger Waugh found more delight in Super Impose winning the 1992 Cox Plate at 25/1.

Of course he was batting with older brother and captain Stephen. After Mark’s soaring stroke their demeanour remains uninterested. It suggests an unhurried single to extra cover.

Four stories up on the Lillee-Marsh grandstand roof, the ball clatters like hail on a shed, and, without a yak, is irretrievable. Our coda to that shot is the mid-pitch exchange

Stephen: Fair swipe.

Mark: Yep.

Stephen: Now pull your head in.

Mark: Are you kidding? You jealous?

Stephen: Nup. Who held the Bankstown Pizzeria Space Invaders record?

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Stephen: Randwick quaddie?

Mark: Nup.

Stephen: Salad or veg with tonight’s steak?

Mark: Veg.

waughs

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five visions of captains & cricket

five visions of captains & cricket

davo drops a catch at cover

the bespectacled batsman edges

to 8 & our oval shrinks like

grandma’s backyard

at dusk he’s dismissed

on 295 & davo is still shouting

a wicket or a run

barossa grand final   last delivery taunts

the nervous bat     keeper & slips yell & rush

as the ball (eyes shut)  magically squeezes

between middle & leg & escapes to the fence

we remain stumped

i’m a very handy cricketer

boasts the burly minnipa policeman     i can’t

bowl   bat   or   field   but

i live right behind the town oval

in the pub & around an autumn bbq

these worn yarns   treasured old mates

slap our backs & cackle

raw appeals startle the afternoon breeze

baggy caps dusty   prickled outfield brown

cricket     rich as a sepia photograph